Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Meditation on Easter

I have painted 12 banners for my church sanctuary which are now hanging high above from the rafters. I painted both sides, so there are 24 images - each one is 3' x 8'. These banners are an exploration of my thoughts and feelings about our celebration of Easter.

What it’s all about, this death and resurrection thing? What really happened anyway? What is the significance of this Easter day? Unlike Christmas, December 25 each year, Easter is a moveable celebration. Easter is observed on the Sunday after the first full moon on or after the day of the vernal equinox. This can occur between March 22 and April 25. Complex negotiations over many centuries arrived at this rather odd compromise. So we’ve got this “moveable feast.”

Is the story of the Resurrection true? Is it Truth? I don’t know. I’m an artist, not a theologian. I think that many Biblical stories tell truths without being true. A friend said that former pastor Winston Baldwin once told a girl who asked if a story was true, “Honey, that story’s so true, that even if it’s not true, it’s true.” That works for me. Heresy? In some circles for sure. But whenever I hear that Jesus died for our sins, I think that it is more accurate to say that Jesus died because of the sins of his contemporaries. I don’t believe Jesus committed crucifixion suicide. He was put to death deliberately The politics of the day, and pride, arrogance, bigotry, hatred, and jealousy killed Jesus. I think that’s true.

That Easter is a moveable celebration appeals to me somehow. It moves around like the spirit can move around. And it needs to move around. Somebody kills Jesus everyday somewhere, it seems to me –genocide in Darfur or Kosovo, or innocents in the Holocaust or Guernica or New York City or Dresden, a landmine in Afghanistan or Africa, or an explosion in a town market in Iraq or the Holy Land, or a suicide bomber, or killing sprees with automatic weapons, or where a child is abused or hungry. “Broken-ness” kills Jesus. And Jesus lives and moves wherever goodness and kindness and caring prevail. I think that’s Truth.

So we are fortunate that Easter is a “moveable feast”– we desperately need the redemptive power of this celebration to move around. There are far too many places and times where this “moveable feast” is needed.

One of my favorite songs is Leonard Cohen’s, “Hallelujah.” He says the following about his song:

"This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled but there are moments when we can transcend …and reconcile and embrace the whole mess and that's what I mean by 'Hallelujah'. That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say 'Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.' And you can't reconcile it in any other way except in that position of total surrender, total affirmation.”

So my color blasts, dancing figures, doves and flowers, Hallelujahs, Jesus on the Cross, and other abstracted offerings are a way to celebrate this day and this “affirmation,” as are the beautiful music we hear and joyous songs we sing and words of wisdom that come our way as we attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable.

I will celebrate the death and life of Easter and hope the miracles will move from place to place, time to time, and person to person. I want these images to be part of the celebration of the contradictions of the rational and the miraculous, of the implications of metaphors and metaphysics, and of the contemplations of the true and the Truth, and I will “embrace the thing” with surrender and affirmation. The Easter story is so true, that even if it’s not true, it’s true. Hallelujah!

Bud Cassiday